Tackling the organizational, legal, regulatory, and financial issues related to health care delivery is not an easy job.
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Christa Terry
Noodle Expert Member

March 10, 2021

On average, health services managers earn $99,730 per year—and the job market is expected to grow by 20% through 2026.

Health service managers enhance the quality of care at just about every hospital, nursing home, doctor's office, and clinic they visit. Their impact—which most patients may never see—or even become aware of—allows doctors and nurses to do what they do best: attend to patients.

Tackling the organizational, legal, regulatory, and financial issues related to health care delivery is not an easy job. With new policies, updates to laws, and changes to complex medical billing and health insurance processes, the healthcare landscape is complex and constantly changing

Are you detail-oriented? Process-obsessed? Looking for a career in health care? For someone who is all three, opportunities in this recession-proof career abound. In this article, we'll cover:

  • What health service managers do
  • Kinds of health service manager careers
  • The educational commitment to become a health services manager
  • The licensure and accreditation requirements for becoming a health services manager
  • Why you should consider a career as a health services manager

What does a health services manager do?

The quick answer: A LOT. A health services manager—also referred to as a healthcare executive or healthcare administrator—not only coordinates the day-to-day operations of busy health care facilities but also helps those facilities stay up-to-date and compliant when it comes to the changing landscape of regulations and insurance.

Health services managers work in a variety of settings for a variety of employers, including:

  • Group medical practices
  • Health care networks
  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Physician's offices

Most health service managers work with providers, but some work with insurance companies.

Medical and health services managers typically handle the following (among other things):

  • Compliance: Health services managers are responsible for keeping up-to-date on new laws and regulations as well as training staff on how to comply with any changes. Some health services managers specialize in compliance, and all health service managers must be familiar with laws and regulations to ensure compliance.
  • Quality of care: Health services managers improve the efficiency of care and overall quality of care in their facility. This may be driven by patient feedback or analysis of outcomes. In larger facilities, the health services manager supervise assistant administrators and work closely with physicians, nurses, specialists, lab techs, surgeons, and other workers to develop strategies for improving care.
  • Health insurance: Some health services managers specialize in insurance and work with billing on issues related to everything from reimbursement negotiation and contract renewals to documentation compliance and patient access.
  • Organization: Health services managers are responsible for creating work schedules for the providers at a practice, monitoring capacity of facilities, and overseeing the use of available resources to ensure that patient needs are met as effectively as possible. They may also be responsible for keeping and organizing facility records.
  • Finance: Health service managers may create and manage budgets, handle budgetary issues, track a facility's finances, ensure that departments are working within budgetary constraints, and monitor billing.

As noted, some medical and health services managers specialize in administrative areas. This is especially true at larger facilities; those who work in smaller facilities are more likely to be called upon to do a little bit of everything.

Kinds of health services manager careers

Medical and health services managers have different titles depending on the facility where they work and their area of specialization (if they have one). Some of the types of health services managers jobs you'll see include:

  • Clinical health service managers specialize in meeting the needs of a single department. Clinical managers may work in departments like surgery, nursing, or physical therapy; they have the specialized knowledge necessary to oversee staff, develop budgets, create goals, and map out operating procedures in those disciplines.
  • Nursing home managers oversee staff, finances, quality of care, and admissions at nursing home facilities. These health services managers are required to be licensed in all states.
  • Ambulatory care facility managers oversee the operations at diagnostic, treatment, or surgical facilities where patients are seen and discharged in a single day. Because of the volume and variety of patients seen, working in this setting can be fast-paced and exciting.
  • Health information managers handle the maintenance and security of patient records. They need to be well-versed in both information technology and patient privacy laws.
  • Emergency medical services managers work in emergency care facilities and hospitals to synchronize emergency response communication so there's always help for those who need it. Of all the career options open to health services managers, this is probably the most high-pressure role.

Typical advancement path for health services managers

To become a health services manager, nearly all employers require a master's degree in areas of study like health services, healthcare administration, or business administration, and some programs let degree candidates specialize by facility-type. In some cases, health services managers begin their careers as patient providers and make the switch to administration. For instance, nursing service managers typically begin their careers as registered nurses and their degrees are usually in nursing or health administration.

There are, however, some entry-level jobs that can help aspiring health services managers land a job with only a bachelor's degree. In looking at the pros and cons of becoming a health services manager, the potential to work your way up to a management position without a master's degree is a definite perk. Some of the roles that may transition to a career as a health services manager include:

  • Community service manager at a social service organization
  • Health care human resources associate
  • Health information officer
  • Medical executive assistant
  • Medical office administrator

In large hospitals, it's not uncommon for graduates of health administration programs to start out as administrative assistants and advance to management positions.

Educational commitment to become a health services manager

Health services managers should have at least a bachelor's degree in a health-related field. Health care administration is the most common major; other options include:

To work in a specialized setting, like a nursing home, or to become a nursing service administrator, it may make sense to pursue a degree in nursing or pharmaceutical sciences. If you're unsure what area of medicine you'd like to work in, consider earning a bachelor of science in health services management. A number of programs are available for future medical and health services managers at George Washington University (including an online option), the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

When choosing a program, look for courses in:

  • Ethical and legal issues in the health care industry
  • Financial management in a health care setting
  • Health care research
  • Health data analysis
  • Health information systems

These kinds of classes prepare graduates for careers in health services management.

After earning a bachelor's degree, consider earning a two-year or accelerated master's degree. Do you need a master's degree to become a health services manager? Strictly speaking, no.

The majority of health services managers only possess a bachelor's degree. However, an advanced degree will differentiate you from the crowd when you're job hunting or trying to advance in your career. People pursue various master's degrees before becoming medical and health services managers, but public health, health services, long-term care administration, and business administration degrees are among the common choices.

Choosing a master's degree program is never easy, and can be especially tricky when your goal is to become a health services manager. Getting a master of health administration from a university with a good on-campus MHA program or online MHA program is one option, but some schools have programs that are designed just for this profession. For instance, Vanderbilt University offers a Master of Management in Health Care (MMHC) degree, and the University of Michigan and the University of Kansas both have a Master of Health Services Administration (MHSA) program.

Coursework in master's degree programs geared toward future health services managers typically includes classes in the following areas:

  • Business management
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Healthcare analytics
  • Healthcare systems
  • Legal and regulatory concerns
  • Medicine
  • Public health policy

Graduate programs may also include a year of supervised administrative experience.

Licensure and accreditation for becoming a health services manager

There is typically no licensure and accreditation required for becoming a health services manager—unless your goal is to become a nursing care facility administrator or an assisted-living facilities manager. In that case, you'll need to pass your state's licensing exam and complete a state-approved training program. That said, even though you don't need to be certified to become a medical or health services manager, many people in the field do choose to pursue certifications. Having extra certifications will almost always make you a more attractive hire (especially for entry-level positions) and usually require nothing more than showing the relevant professional experience and passing an exam.

Depending on what type of medical facility you plan to work in, you could become a Certified Nursing Home Administrator or Certified Assisted Living Administrator (certifications offered by the American College of Health Care Administrators) or a Certified Medical Manager or Certified Health Information Manager.

The pros of becoming a health services manager

At first glance, health services management isn't a particularly sexy career, but consider the following pros of the role:

  1. Health services managers meet a very real need. The demand for healthcare is increasing, and providers and practices are dealing with more paperwork and organizational challenges than ever before. Distracted doctors can't deliver top-notch care. The work you do as a manager allows those providers and practices to focus on patients instead of administrative work, which means your contribution can potentially have a direct positive impact on patient outcomes.
  2. The average salary is strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers earn about $99,730 per year. Chances are, you'll have access to great benefits, too—like medical and dental insurance, life insurance, retirement options, and possibly also stocks.
  3. The job market for health services managers is growing, and this is a career—unlike so many others— that's not going to get automated any time soon. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for health services managers will increase much faster than average, by 20 percent by 2026. Even with just a bachelor's degree, there are opportunitiesin medical administration.
  4. There are plenty of women in leadership positions. Women occupy roughly 74 percent of health services manager positions already, so if you're a woman and worried about getting to the top, don't be.

There will always be a need for smart, driven people to keep health services running smoothly. If you want to work in medicine and you want job security, becoming a health services manager is a great career choice.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com